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25 Years of Leadership Lessons

Dr. James Emery White
Dr. James Emery White

This weekend, Meck will celebrate its 25th anniversary, and I have had the privilege of serving as its senior pastor the entire quarter-century run. 

Not many people get to plant a church. 

Not many get to lead a church for this many years. 

Which got me thinking… if I could go back in time, what would I tell that young church planter in 1992? What things didn’t I know then, and what things did I commit to then that I’ve found were well worth the commitment? In other words, what would I go back and offer myself from 25 years of leadership lessons?

Okay, that’s a book, not a blog. And I kind of already wrote it. (It’s titled What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary.) But here, in no particular order, are 25 things I know I would want to make sure to pass on:

  1. Don’t overestimate what you can do in one year, but don’t underestimate what you can do in 10, much less 25.
  2. Prioritize family over ministry. You’ll find it to be the Best.Decision.Ever.
  3. Fads and styles, models and trendsetters, will come and go. Stay focused on one thing: the mission.
  4. You’ll grow bigger and faster if you focus on transfer growth. Don’t. Reaching the unchurched is what it’s all about.
  5. People will leave. It will hurt. It will be next to impossible not to take it personally. But remember that, most of the time, it’s not about you—it’s about them and God. And if God is in it, it’s a win-win.
  6. You’ll never regret a prayed-over, missionally-minded, God-prompted bungee jump.
  7. On any and every issue, go to the Bible and then go with the Bible.
  8. Prize character over talent, and loyalty over just about anything.
  9. Who you start out with may not be who you finish with, but prize above all others those who come in those early years and run the distance with you the rest of the way.
  10. Pastoring 101: Weep with those who weep and celebrate with those who celebrate.
  11. Resolve to prioritize children’s ministry. Once again, you’ll find it to be the Best.Decision.Ever.
  12. Raise your kids in such a way that they love Jesus, love the church and love ministry. (And take heart—all four will.)
  13. Hire from within. Repeat after me: hire from within.
  14. Who you platform is who – by and large – you will attract. 
  15. The key question to ask isn’t how to grow the church; the key question to ask is what is keeping the church from growing.
  16. While you’re starting off with the best possible methodology you know, remember it won’t be the best for long. No methodology ever will.
  17. You don’t possess every spiritual gift. Don’t operate as if you do or let others expect it of you.
  18. You will be tempted to do ministry from memory. Work at doing it from imagination.
  19. Capital.Campaigns.Matter. Few things move the ball farther down the field in such dramatic fashion.
  20. Your competition isn’t, and never will be, another church. You’re after the person who doesn’t give a rip about churches.
  21. Matthew 18:15. Matthew 18:15. Matthew 18:15.
  22. Your core values are the hills you should die on. 
  23. Left to itself, the natural flow of the church is to turn inward, grow older and become outdated. Leadership must intentionally combat all three.
  24. Vision leaks. Never stop casting it.
  25. God loves you more than you believe and is more faithful than you deserve. Read that again.

James Emery White


Sources

James Emery White, What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary (Baker).

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

 
Originally published September 25, 2017.

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